How to Grow and Care for Lemongrass (Plus, Uses + Benefits)
Lemongrass, or Lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus), is a perennial tropical grass native to South and Southeast Asia. Due to its distinctive citrusy scent and its numerous health benefits, it’s frequently employed in culinary, therapeutic, and cosmetic uses.
This ornamental grass not only looks great, but it tastes fantastic, too. Apart from being an excellent addition to stir-fries, soups, and stews and to make teas, this fast-growing grass is beautiful during the warm summer air.
It is characterized by tall, slender leaves, which grow in groups. The leaves are arching and long with sharp edges, emitting a spicy, lemony scent when crushed.
As autumn approaches, this plant’s slender, long gray-green leaves change into vivid shades of burgundy and red, adding a beautiful bright color to autumn gardens.
The lemongrass plant originates from South Asian and Southeast Asian countries, including Sri Lanka, India, Burma, and Thailand. It is perennial in zones 10 and 11. However, it is often planted as an annual plant in other regions.
The ideal season to grow lemongrass is during the spring when potted nursery plants are planted after the danger of frost has passed. Knowing that this plant is a source of cyanogenic glycosides and other oils that can be toxic to cats, dogs, and horses in huge quantities is crucial.
Botanical Name: Cymbopogon citratus
Common Name: Lemongrass
Genre: Perennial, annual, herb
Hardiness Zones:10 – 11 (USDA)
Sun Exposure: Full sun
Soil Type: Loamy
Soil pH: Neutral
Mature:75 – – 100 days
Height: 2 – 4 feet tall
Native Area: Asia
Quick Guide: Planting, Growing & Caring for Lemongrass
- Lemongrass is a simple plant to grow and thrives best with at least 6 hours of direct sunshine daily.
- The aromatic culinary herb is a fan of moist soil but is drought-tolerant once established.
- It thrives in humid and warm areas and is most effective outside in the evening when temperatures are usually around 50 degrees.
- It can be propagated by division or growing from seeds, but locating sources is usually more challenging.
Lemongrass Plant Care
Lemongrass is easy to cultivate both outdoors and indoors. It thrives in climates similar to its native region’s heat and humidity. Therefore, the lemongrass plant will expand and multiply rapidly if you provide light, warmth, and water.
The best part is that lemongrass is a multi-tasking plant thanks to its scent, which acts as a pest repellent. The plant’s oil is believed to repel common problems such as mosquitoes.
Even in hot climates, lemongrass thrives best in full sunlight. It needs at least an hour of sun daily to fulfill its energy needs. Plants that thrive in shade won’t have a lot of leaves and can attract pests.
Lemongrass thrives in rich, loamy soil. Manure, compost, or leaf mold are some amendments to the ground that can be added when planting to achieve this end goal.
For best results, lemongrass prefers moist soil. Lemongrass can grow well using the standard one inch of water every week, recommended for many other plants, but it will thrive with less water than this. Once established, it’s very drought-resistant as well.
You could add a layer of mulch about three inches thick to help retain soil moisture and improve the soil’s quality as it decomposes.
Temperature and Humidity
The lemongrass plant thrives in hot and humid climates. Growing lemongrass outdoors is best when temperatures remain between 50 and 60 degrees at night.
It is susceptible to frost, So bring it inside before temperatures drop into the 40s if you plan to keep it overwintering in pots.
Green lemongrass needs nitrogen-rich fertilizer to ensure the highest growth for the plant. Consider using a slow-release 64-0 fertilizer to feed the plant throughout the growth season.
Manure tea is an alternative to water your plants since it has trace nutrients that aid your plant to grow more effectively.
Lemongrass plants thriving over more than one season get a yearly trim to keep them tidy and remove dead leaves. The plant will fall back during winter, so keep the brown leaves in place to protect plants from freezing.
When plants are dormant at the end of winter, cut this ornamental grass down to around 6 inches. As the warm weather returns, the lemongrass plants will quickly recover and produce new sprouts.
Lemongrass is often evergreen throughout the year in regions considered perennial, i.e., USDA zones 11 and 10. It can fall back to the ground in winter for gardeners living in zone 8 or 9 and reappear in the spring.
If you reside in a colder climate, it is possible to take some indoors and winterize it in a sunny, sun-filled area by removing and planting in containers.
Lemongrass is an excellent herb for many culinary and medicinal reasons. It’s a potent boost to the immune system, high in antioxidants. It also has antibacterial properties because of its significant citral content. Research has shown that it is recognized to reduce anxiety, stress, and insomnia.
It may help reduce cholesterol levels as well as the levels of blood sugar, which is an ideal choice for people with diabetes. Regarding culinary, lemongrass adds flavor to soups, curry dishes, and teas. It is a crucial element in Thai and other Southeast Asian cuisines.
How to Plant and Grow Lemongrass
How to grow Lemongrass from Seed
Lemongrass is a simple plant to grow from seeds. However, it is challenging to locate sources available at times. It is more typical to find tiny plants to begin lemongrass rather than seeds, despite online stores. It can be challenging for roots to locate. However, they will grow quickly and efficiently in moist, warm soil if you can find them.
The seeds should be lightly pressed into the sterile potting soil mix and ensure that the environment is moist until germination occurs, which usually takes between 10 and 14 days.
If the plants are around 3 inches in height, stretch them at a distance of one foot. Plant the pots indoors in a bright space.
How to Propagate Lemongrass
The clumps of lemongrass make it easy to reproduce by applying the division method. Digging the cluster or whole root ball from the container would be best.
Then, you can use a garden trowel or spade to break the cluster into pieces. Each leaf fan has a narrow bulb-like foundation with roots that could develop into a new clump.
How big each division is your choice. However, clumps with at least five or six bulbs appear larger than one bulb.
Plant the divisions immediately in fresh pots or particular garden areas. Ensure to water thoroughly before planting, and continue with the watering daily while the divisions establish their own.
How to Pot or Repot Lemongrass
To grow your lemongrass, select a large container with an average diameter of 12 inches. This helps ensure a sturdy root system and prevents top-heavy plants from falling over. Suppose you reside in a more excellent region. In that case, keeping your plant healthy through the coming harvest time is possible by putting only one root division inside an outdoor container on the windowsill in a sunny spot.
Use a top-quality commercial potting mix when planting or refilling lemongrass. Selecting potting soil mixed with a slow-release fertilizer can help you save time and energy while providing your garden with nutrients.
If you’ve kept an unchanging lemongrass plant for years and year after year, it’s time to get it back on track by repotting it in the spring to replenish the soil.
Lemongrass harvesting is a different procedure from pruning it. Lemongrass is a perennial plant that is fast growing, so it can be harvested while the plant is growing and does not suffer from any negative consequences.
Although the leaves are hard to consume, you can slice the stalks off and let them sit in broth or tea. If mashed or minced, the stalks impart a delicious, lemony flavor to your dishes.
Utilizing a trowel or hand, cut the stalks into individual pieces, separating them from the clumps and roots. Remove the tough outer leaves, then chop or freeze the soft white stalks to use them later.
How to Use Lemongrass
Lemongrass has a pleasant, tasty, lemony flavor that is delicious with the hint of ginger without the unpleasant taste that lemon rinds can sometimes possess.
It’s an essential ingredient in Thai food and enhances soups, seafood stews, fish curry, sauces, and soups. It’s also a popular ingredient throughout Vietnam, Cambodia, and Indonesia; it is used to season chicken, fish, and seafood dishes.
Remove the bulb at the bottom for fresh lemongrass cooking, and then remove those tough leaves on the outside. Thai food is cooked using the principal stalk, the yellow component. It is possible to slice the yellow stem into chunks of about 2 to 3 inches in length and then ‘bruise’ them by turning them over and over.
Additionally, you can use your knife to make minor cuts in these areas. This helps the lemon’s flavor to come through. Put these mangled stalks in the stew or curry.
Take the lemongrass pieces out before serving, or ask your guests to remove them when eating. It will be delicious to have a lemon scent and taste in any recipe if you use this ingredient.
Other uses for lemongrass in cooking are the preparation of lemongrass tea. Furthermore, it’s valued for its essential lemongrass oil, which has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antifungal properties. It is commonly used in aromatherapy, cosmetics, and natural insect repellent.
Common Pests and Plant Diseases for Lemongrass
Lemongrass plants are immune to most pests due to their insect-repellent qualities. However, they are vulnerable to the rust and fungus in some regions. The brown spots or streaks on the leaves are indicators of this condition. It causes death to plants. To prevent plants from developing rusty, you should keep them watered at the soil level, not over the leaf.